Detroit News v. Policemen and Firemen Retirement System was a 2002 case before the Michigan Court of Appeals concerning the definition of a public body.
This case established a number of important precedents:
- The release of documents may invalidate a future claim of exemption, but the court is required to perform an in camera inspection to determine if the information and documents are actually the same.
- Retirement Systems which are funded and controlled by state agencies are public bodies subject to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
- On March 15, 2000, the Detroit News submitted a request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act to the retirement system for all documents relating to the systems dealings with a number of local business owners.
- On December 7, 1998, the retirement system responded by granting only part of the request and exempting the remainder by claiming that they are not considered a public body and therfor not subject to public records requests.
- On September 1, 1999, the news paper submitted an additional request for more up to date information and a request to attend the January board meetings.
- The retirement system allowed the newspaper to view the minutes of their board meetings but denied the remainder of the request. The retirement system argued that they were not a public body, all the documents in question were exempt under open records law and the newspapers intention in requesting the documents was not in line with the intention of FOIA because it was not attempting to further democratic participation. The news filed suit.
- On October 13, 2000, the court ruled in favor of the news agency, ordering the documents released.
- The decision was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the Detroit News, declaring that the retirement system was a public body as it was funded by the state. The court also felt that none of the exemptions found within Michigan law applied to the documents in question because the documents in question, according to the newspapers, had already been released in their previous FOIA request. Thus, the court ordered the documents released.
The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the trial court, rmanding the documents in question for further review.
The Court of Appeals concurred with the trial courts argument that the retirement system had failed to counter the newspapers argument with regard to whether or not they were a public body. Thus, the court affirmed the decision of the trial court and determined that the retirement system was a public body because it was created and funded by state agencies. However, the court felt that the trial courts erred in not evaluating the documents in camera to determine if the information in question had actually been released in the previous records request. Based on this determination, the court vacated the decision and remanded the case to the trial court for in camera inspection.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Ruling of the Court